Solved by verified expert:Based upon a review of the article presented by Kotter International titled “The Key to Changing Organizational Culture (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.,” how is organizational culture usually formed? Who’s ultimately responsible for how or if it changes? Why do change attempts typically fail?
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262,149 views | Sep 27, 2012, 12:24pm
The Key to Changing
We write about overcoming the barriers to leading change.
Boston University. Photo courtesy Nano Anderson (some rights reserved).
The Boston Globe just ran a front-page story in their “Ideas” section on
organizational culture, inspired by some depressing events involving the Boston
University hockey team. It was much more impactful than the average writing
about culture, and raised the important question: Why do conversations about an
important topic like culture typically go nowhere, leading companies to waste
time and money with “cultural change efforts” which very seldom work?
Here is the problem: First, virtually no one clearly defines what they mean by
“culture,” and when they do they usually get it wrong. Second, virtually no one
has read the original research that shows why culture — when clearly defined — is
so important, how it is formed, and how it changes.
Definition: Culture consists of group norms of behavior and the underlying
shared values that help keep those norms in place. Take your work, for example, a
place where almost everyone shows up between 8:55 and 9:05. Why? Not because
the CEO has decreed it, or because people are fired if they don’t do it. That’s just
the way it is! That is a group norm. Why does it exist? And why doesn’t it go away
when Gen X or Y individuals are hired? My guess: People are hired who embrace
the value of respecting others, including other people’s time, so they also show up
to meetings on time, and anyone who doesn’t gets a glaring look from everyone
Where does culture come from? It usually comes from the founders of the group.
For whatever reason, they value certain things and behave in ways that seem to
help the group succeed. Success is key. So it seeps into the group’s DNA.
How does culture change? A powerful person at the top, or a large enough group
from anywhere in the organization, decides the old ways are not working, figures
out a change vision, starts acting differently, and enlists others to act differently.
If the new actions produce better results, if the results are communicated and
celebrated, and if they are not killed off by the old culture fighting its rear-guard
action, new norms will form and new shared values will grow.
What does NOT work in changing a culture? Some group decides what the new
culture should be. It turns a list of values over to the communications or HR
departments with the order that they tell people what the new culture is. They
cascade the message down the hierarchy, and little to nothing changes.
In summary, that’s the whole story.
Keep an eye out for my new article, “Accelerate,” due out in the
November issue of Harvard Business Review, in which I explain how
organizations can develop the agility required to succeed in today’s
rapidly changing world.
John Kotter is the chief innovation officer at Kotter International
(www.kotterinternational.com), a firm that helps leaders accelerate strategy
implementation in their organizations, and is the Konosuke Matsushita
Professor of Leadership Emeritus ESC +0% at Harvard Business School.
Follow John Kotter:
On Twitter: @KotterIntl
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KotterInternational
Sign up for the Kotter International Newsletter.
Kotter is a consulting ﬁrm that helps clients amplify their own potential and overcome the
barriers to leading complex change. Founded by the world’s foremost change ex… Read More
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